Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Creative jobs vs. service oriented

Something I've been thinking about for a while. Basically, in any kind of work environment, the people could be seperated into creators, service people, and parasites, er ..., management.

Creators are working directly on the main product the company sells, such as developers working on the software products at Microsoft, or, or chemists working on new drugs in a drug discovery company.

Service guys, on the other hand, are supposed to keep the creators happy, and thus are just lowly servicemen, whose only purpose it to serve and please creators. Thus the servicemen are usually at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak.

Certain jobs  can either be of a creator type, or a serviceman, depending on the company. This is especially true for programmers, who could either work on a product, or support some ongoing activity.

My question is to those who have experienced both ends of the spectrum. Can a service position be as satisfying as the one where the person actually works on a final product? My experience is that compared to working on some stupid ideas generated by others, and been usually treated as a lowly serviceman, it is much more satisfying to work on MY own stupid ideas, or even have somebody else working on them for me :-) The former is almost 100% certain for those holding service positions, whereas the latter is not a guarantee, but still is more likely for those in creative positions.

Opinions?

Mr Curiousity
Sunday, April 04, 2004

I'd divide it into the same three caaategories but I would label them differently:

1. Mindless low skill button pushers
2. Service
3. Visionaries that drive innovation through exemplary leadership

Get back to work you!
Sunday, April 04, 2004

You forgot marketing and sales.. I'd consider those to be a service and well, if money making is what makes you happy, they seem to do ok..

Not to mention the fact that creating an end product could also merely lead to the provision of a service; for example.. Google makes a search engine, and provides a search service at the same time.. And the grey area inbetween, if you build a piece of software that cleans out the link farms, are you building a product or a service ?

deja vu
Sunday, April 04, 2004

How often do Creators actually develop their own ideas, and how come Servicers can't be creative?

Nigel
Sunday, April 04, 2004

"How often do Creators actually develop their own ideas, and how come Servicers can't be creative? "

That is not the point. The point is whose ideas take precedence and are better rewarded. So, if you are in Services and develop your ideas, at most they will facilitate the jobs of the creators, and so the credit you get won't be that significant. Also, if a creator does not want to pursue something further, your ideas on the subject will have to be dropped, because now something else is more important, and you must start working on it ASAP.

Mr Curiousity
Sunday, April 04, 2004

Are defining "service" as people who's customers are *internal* to the company?

I.e., Sales or Marketing would have an external customer (essentially).  However, HR would have an internal customer that they serve: employees.  Likewise with janitorial, the cafeteria (at Microsoft), etc.

If THAT is the distinction you're making, then I'd say you're spot on correct.

If your customer is internal, you don't really have a "customer" because the person receiving your service does not pay your salary. So, you're not going to get the respect/pay commesurate with the job you do for them.

Mr. Analogy
Sunday, April 04, 2004

I agree working on your own stupid ideas is almost always more satisfying.

Read "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It sums up pretty nicely what I would guess job satisfaction is.

Excerpt: "We have seen how people describe the common characteristics of optimal experience: a sense that one's skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear clues as to how well one is performing."

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, April 05, 2004

People who write code and develop software are providing a service...

Obviously
Monday, April 05, 2004

It depends on the size of the company to a degree.

Some people simply have to do it all, some people love that. I like writing code, introducing lots of new features, some requested, some not. I mean, to the extend that I think something is a great change, write the code, get on a plane, have it tested while on flight, landing, getting feedback, getting a connected flight and getting the all clear. Now I'm on site and it goes in.  I'm also supporting them, doing the 'service' thing, giving training, tracking down bugs, checking their enviroment, putting in my new code, and doing email/on site support.

I think it's easier in a smaller company, you get the best of all worlds (and no sleep).

fw
Monday, April 05, 2004

It all depends on what the company values, and this is highly subjective. In most setups they focus on one thing, which they consider there core, the heart of the company. This can be sales, services, development, ... anything. Often it comes out of the founders background, but it can change over (long) time.
If you work outside of the core, where management projects the company's heart, you are a cost center.  Working for a cost center is no fun.
This is why programmers are treated nice at Microsoft, and are nickled and dimed in most non-software setups.
Of course there are many exceptions to this.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, April 05, 2004

This all sounds like elitist crap. The level of creativity you use in your job is dependant on how much you want to give to it and to what level you have mastered the skills neccesary. Of course sales and marketing are service because they are the natural enemy of the elitist programmer. Get real! One has to be just as creative to close a sale. The fact that programmers want to be so damn creative all the time leads to many bad implementations of a wheel.

Creative Class
Monday, April 05, 2004

Considering the crap some programmers produce you sometimes have to be really creative to close a sale!

Stephen Jones
Monday, April 05, 2004

To answer your question, Mr Curiousity, I think in general your premise is correct, but only when applied to roles that have both those manifestations.

So, for a software developer, creating a product (developing) is infinitely preferable to service, responding to short term demands from people unlikely to be happy.

Salesmen are service roles. They have to suck up to their customers. Of course, they get paid a lot to do this.

An example of service roles that would be rewarding are teaching and medicine. I think whether service roles are rewarding depends on whether your role has authority over the subjects of your service.

JM
Monday, April 05, 2004

'Just me', 'Mr. Analogy', and 'JM' helped to clarify and validate my observation, thanks!

Basically, serving internal customers within the same company with no control and choice over the tasks being done is exactly what I meant by "service oriented" jobs, whereas "creative jobs" involved doing things fully aligned with the company's core objectives.

I guess that there was a somewhat poor choice of terminology on my part when I used the term "creative"...

Mr Curiousity
Monday, April 05, 2004

Why not give us an example of what exactly _you_ mean by "non-creative" service jobs.  Psychotherapy for programmers to make them happy?  Floor cleaning?

Seun Osewa (afriguru.com)
Tuesday, April 06, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home